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Photo Credit: Amy Pearl, courtesy WNYC Studios

Talking death, sex and money with Anna Sale

What has been the most unexpected thing you have learned about love from your show, Death, Sex & Money?

The thing I think about a lot about what I’ve learned on Death, Sex & Money and from interviewing people who are at all different stages of life is that it’s a constant reminder that you don’t just arrive somewhere–there’s not a moment when everything’s figured out–because even if you’re in a moment when things are calm something will shift in your life that will require a new set of problem solving skills.

So I guess that’s what I’ve learned about love, that it’s not going to be finished. And the work of love is very hard work. And the work of companionship is hard work. Because in relationships you have two people who are changing and responding to life and I think in the ideal relationships you’re finding ways to make room for that growth while also constantly soaking the connection that you have together.

I’ve learned not to take love for granted.

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Sometimes it can even be difficult to talk about with your spouse.

Yeah! Because it’s also about power.

Congratulations on getting married this past summer! What would you say you have learned about love in your life as a newlywed?

I can remember in the days after our wedding turning to Arthur and saying, “it feels different.” And I think the thing that’s really special about making a lifelong commitment to someone is that love transforms from being ‘I admire this person, I respect this person, I want to be near this person’ to a commitment that becomes much more about ‘this is a family and a life that we’re building together’. So it feels like our love is becoming much more about the team that we’re building and that suits my personality. I love that.

So it feels like our love is becoming much more about the team that we’re building and that suits my personality. I love that.

I feel like it’s a different sort of love; it’s a deepening, and a very rooted kind of love when you are ready to make that commitment [of marriage] to someone.

Death. Sex. Money. It’s not often we incorporate these taboo topics into our cocktail party banter. But should we be talking more openly about these very real things? Anna Sale, host and managing editor of popular podcast Death, Sex & Money, thinks so. Her show discusses the “big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation” like how mental illness can affect a marriage, or a sex worker who is doing her best to support her children.

We got to chat with Anna about everything from life as a newlywed to why she would love to interview Madonna on parenting and what she’s learned from her show.

Who would you love to interview, if you could choose anyone?

Oh, so many people!

I want to hear from Joe Biden in this moment since he’s decided not to run. Because not only is he still mourning his son, but he’s contemplating life outside of public office for the first time in decades. He’s someone who I am curious about what he’s thinking and feeling.

And I would love to interview Madonna about parenting.

I think we know some sides of her quite well, but I want to know what it’s been like as she’s raised her three kids. Now they’re becoming adults -- what has she tried to instill in them? When you’re such a rebel, what do you try to teach your kids? I’d be curious to hear what she has to say about that.

Anna Sale is the host and managing editor of Death, Sex & Money, WNYC Studios’ interview show about the big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation. She has contributed to This American Life, Fresh Air, All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Marketplace, Studio 360, PBS Newshour, and Slate.

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On your show you say that death, sex, and money are the things we should talk about more but don’t. How is talking about sex good for relationships? Specifically, how would you say it makes it better?

We are working on an episode right now where we ask listeners to tell us why you aren’t having sex. And we’ve gotten a wide diversity of stories that are really fascinating; from people who have never had sex, to people who had a lot of sex and are now not having sex for one reason or another, and also people who are in long term relationships where sex has just become less and less frequent. It’s clear that sex is one of the most emotionally vulnerable exercises that we have as humans.

Sex can be a source of great connection and it can also, when it’s not clicking, be a source of real isolation in relationships.

And I think to say “talk about your sex life” is very generic advice, but what I think it’s really about is finding ways to understand where your partner is coming from and how you want to express to your partner where you’re coming from.

I think it’s really important because by talking about what’s happening in your sex life hopefully you get to a place of ‘Oh, I didn’t know that was going on with you! Now I feel more compassionate toward you’. Then maybe you might have an example where someone was feeling rejected, but after a conversation they feel loving because they know where their partner is coming from.

Sex is just such a charged thing that very quickly leads to places of not feeling safe or feeling shame, so I think talking about it to get away from that heaviness is important.

We’re not getting away from sex. Sex is there. Ignoring it doesn’t do you any good.
I think navigating sex as new parents is a crucial time to communicate, because you’re really not having sex right away after the baby arrives. So this topic of talking about sex is important for new parents to keep in mind.

When it comes to parenting, I’m not a parent, but I feel like from what I have heard from people in interviews that it certainly ebbs and flows.

And sex in a long term relationship is totally natural and normal and I think it’s figuring out what you need in your relationship to feel connected; like if you feel comfortable giving each other space. Or for example, I require a ton of cuddling, it’s part of my make up.

Who has been one of the most interesting people you’ve interviewed?

I did an interview with a man named Lawrence Bartley, who has been in prison since he was a teenager for murder in New York.

We talked about his crime, we talked about why he’s been in prison, what it was like to basically become a man behind bars.

But I really loved what he had to say about learning how to be a parent and a husband. He got married while he was in prison, he’s had two kids through conjugal visits while he’s been in prison; we talked about the ways that he communicates with his sons and how he tries to be present in his son’s lives and tries to be a good husband while he’s behind bars–it was really interesting.

It made me realize this is someone who’s had a lot of time to think about what he wants to have that’s positive in his life, and how to be the best husband and father that he can be. So I learned a lot from him.
What is something you wish people would talk more openly about?

I think the hardest thing to talk about is money.

I want to hear more about how people are navigating that, because it gets to so many hard puzzles that we all struggle with when it comes to balancing career, balancing family, figuring out what your priorities are and what you need to survive -- what’s a necessity and what’s an extravagance.

And I think that when you feel like you don’t have enough or you feel like other people have more than you it’s really isolating and opening up more conversation about the feelings that come with money is really important. Because it gets down to that money is all about ‘am I able to take care of myself and my family?’–it’s basic. But there are so many things that make that conversation difficult.

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Anyone who has had a baby with colic knows: It's not easy. But despite how common colic is, the causes have stumped researchers (and parents) for generations. Yet, the fact remains that some 5 to 19% of newborns suffer from colic, or excessive but largely inexplicable crying spurts.

Parents of colicky newborns are often eager for something, anything, that will give their baby comfort. The good news is that while we don't have complete confirmation on what causes colic, we do have generations worth of evidence on how to best manage and treat colic.

1. Use bottles with an anti-colic internal vent system that creates a natural flow

One of the most commonly cited culprits in causing colic is tummy discomfort from air bubbles taken in while bottle-feeding—which is proof that not all bottles are created equally. Designed with an anti-colic internal vent system that keeps air away from baby's milk during feeding, Dr. Brown's® bottles are clinically proven to reduce colic and are the #1 pediatrician recommended baby bottle in the US

Distractions and a supine position while feeding can cause your baby to take in additional air, leading to those bubbles that can bother their tummies. If you notice an uptick in crying after feeding, experiment with giving your baby milk in a more upright position and then keeping them upright for a while afterwards for burping and digestion.

2. Offer a pacifier

If your baby is calm while eating, it may be that they are actually calmed by the ability to suck on something—a common instinct among newborns. Offering a pacifier not only can help soothe colicky babies, but is also proven to reduce the rate of SIDS in newborns, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Some babies have strong opinions about their pacifiers, which is why staying with the Dr. Brown's brand can help you avoid the guessing game: Designed to mimic the shape of the bottle nipples, Dr. Brown's HappyPaci pacifier makes for easy (read: calming) transitions from bottle to pacifier.

3. Practice babywearing

Beyond tummy troubles, another leading theory is that colic is the result of newborns' immature nervous systems and the overstimulation of life outside the womb. By keeping them close to you through babywearing, you are helping ease their transition to the outside world as they come to terms with their new environment.

During pregnancy, they were also used to lots of motion throughout the day. By walking (even around the house) while babywearing, you can help give them that familiar movement they may crave.

4. Get some fresh air

Along with the motion from walking around, studies show that colicky babies may benefit simply from being outside. This is one thing for parents of spring and summer newborns. But for those who are battling colic during cold, dark months, it can help to take your stroller into the mall for some laps.

5. Swaddle to calm their nervous system

Unlike the warm, cozy confinement of the womb, the outside world babies are contending with during the fourth trimester can be overwhelming—especially after a full day of sensory stimulation. As a result, many parents report their baby's colic is worse at night, which is why a tight, comforting swaddle can help soothe them to sleep.

For many parents coping with a colicky baby, it's simply a process of experimenting about what can best provide relief. Thankfully, it doesn't have to be as much of a guessing game now, due to products like those in the Dr. Brown's line that are specifically tailored to helping babies with colic.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

The temperatures are dropping and that can only mean one thing. Whether we like it or not, winter's cold chilly months are upon us. As a born-and-raised Alaskan, and mama of three, I've got a lot of cold weather experience under my belt, and staying inside half the year just isn't an option for us. As my husband likes to say, "There's no bad weather, just bad gear."

Here are some of my favorite picks to keep your family toasty warm this winter.


1. Bear bunting

This sherpa bear bunting wins winter wear MVP for being a comfy snowsuit for your littlest babe, or base-layer under another snowsuit for the chilliest of winter outings. Bonus: your baby bear will never look cuter!

Sherpa Hooded Bunting, Carter's, $15.20

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2. Patagonia Capilene base-layers

Speaking of base-layers, for any prolonged winter activity outside in the cold, it's best to layer up to create air pockets of warmth. These moisture wicking base-layers are a family favorite.

Baby Capilene Bottoms, Back Country, $29.00

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3. Arctix Kids limitless overall bib

These adjustable snow pants keep kids warm and the bib style keeps snow from going down the back of their pants. Bonus: the price is excellent for the quality and they can grow with your child. The Velcro strap also makes bathroom breaks for kids so much easier.

Arctix Kids Limitless Overall Bib, Amazon, $14.99-$49.99

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4. Hooded frost-free long jacket

Keep your little one warm and stylish in this long puffer jacket. Great for everyday outings.

Hooded Frost-Free Long Jacket, Old Navy, $35.00

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5. Patagonia reversible jacket

This jacket is windproof, waterproof and the built-in hood means one less piece of gear to worry about (or one more layer for your little one's head). It's a best buy if you live with cold winter temperatures for many months of the year and still love to get outside to play. It also stays in great condition for hand-me-downs to your next kid.

Reversible Down Sweater Hoodie, Nordstrom, $119.00

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6. Under Armour Decatur water repellent jacket

Made of waterproof fabric and lined with great insulation, kids will no doubt stay warm—and dry—in this. It features plenty of pockets, too, so mama doesn't always have to hold onto their items. We love that the UGrow system allows sleeves to grow a couple inches.

UA Decatur Water Repellent Jacket, Nordstrom, $155.00

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7. Stonz mittens

Ever tried to keep gloves on a 1-year-old? It's a tough task, but these gloves make it a breeze with a wide opening and two adjustable toggles for a snug fit they can't pull off! Warm and waterproof, and come in sizes from infant to big kids.

Stonz Mittz, Amazon, $39.99

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8. Sorel toot pack boot

Keep their little toes warm with these cozy boots from Sorel. With insulated uppers and waterproof bottoms their feet are sure to stay warm. They're well constructed and hold up over time, making them a great hand-me-down option for your family.

Sorel Kids' Yoot Boot, Amazon, $48.73-$175.63

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9. Stonz baby boots

These Stonz stay-on-baby booties do just as their name says and stay on their feet. No more searching for one boot in the grocery store parking lot!

Stonz Three Season Stay-On Baby Booties, Amazon, $29.99-$50.29

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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We make a lot of things this time of year. Gingerbread houses. Christmas cards. New traditions. Babies.

Yes, December is peak baby making season. It's a month filled with togetherness and all the love felt in December is what makes September the most statistically popular month for American birthdays.

According to data journalist Matt Stiles, mid-September is the most popular time to give birth in America. He did a deep dive into the birth stats from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics and the U.S. Social Security Administration collected between 1994 and 2014 and found that the most common American birthdays fall on September 9, 19 and 12. In fact, 9 of the 10 most popular days to give birth fall in September.

If we turn the calendar back, we're looking at Christmas time conceptions. Stiles illustrated his findings via a heat map, which presents the data in a visual form. The darker the square, the more common the birthday.

The square for August 30 is pretty dark as it is the 34th most common birthday in America. It's also 40 weeks after November 23, and the unofficial beginning of the United States' seasonal baby boom.


And while the Christmas holidays are common times to conceive, they're not common days to give birth, for obvious reasons. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Day and the fourth of July are all represented by light squares on Stiles's data map, meaning they're among the least popular days to welcome a little one into the world (Boxing Day is just a smidge darker, still a pretty rare birthday).

OB-GYNs are not likely to schedule C-sections on major holidays, so that might point to the low birth rates on these special days.

As for the September baby boom, it probably has less to do with the magic of the holiday season and more to do with the fact that many Americans take time off work during the holiday season. It's not that mistletoe is some magic aphrodisiac, but just that making babies takes time, and at this time of year we have some to spare.

This Christmas be thankful for the time you have with your loved ones and your partner. That time could give you a gift come September.

[A version of this article was originally posted November 21, 2018]

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When I gave birth the first time, I had two doulas—one for me, and one for my husband. (I wasn't messing around!) They worked hard to support me in what ended up being a long labor. About 20 hours in, I remember hearing my doulas whisper to my exhausted, hard-working husband, “Go lie down. We can take care of her."

This was absolutely true. They were more than capable of helping me through contractions, which up to this point I'd been handling really well. So upon their urging, my husband walked about three feet away and lay down on the daybed in the labor and delivery room. And then the strangest thing happened—

I completely lost my rhythm and my ability to breathe through contractions. It was as though I'd lost my way. The next handful of contractions were unbearable and caused me to cry out in anguish. My husband hurried to my side and held my hand once more.

And then, just as quickly, I found my rhythm, my breathing returned, and I was able to to handle my contractions until I gave birth several hours later.

In a recent study published in Nature, it was discovered that when a partner held the hand of a woman during labor, the couple would begin to synchronize their breathing and heart rate patterns, otherwise known as physiological coupling.

In addition, the women reported that their pain lessened while holding hands with their partners. If they were just sitting next to one another, but not holding hands, their pain levels weren't affected.

This study has obvious implications for the families I teach in my Childbirth Preparation classes, and it's important to share this news far and wide:

Everything you do for your partner while she's in labor makes a difference. Even if all you do is hold her hand.

Labor is not just something that a birthing woman experiences. Her partner experiences labor too, just in a very different way. For far too long, we've either diminished or ignored the partner's experience of labor—to everyone's detriment.

I realize that it makes sense to pay close attention to how a woman moves through her pregnancy, labor and birth. But if we're not paying equal attention to her partner's experience, we're not setting this new family up for success. In fact, we might be doing the exact opposite.

If partners don't realize the importance their words, actions and touch can have on the laboring woman's experience, many may freeze up and feel helpless as they witness the power and intensity of labor and birth. They may end up feeling as though all of their efforts and suggestions for comfort measures are without any effect. But this couldn't be further from the truth!

Every little thing a partner does to make the laboring woman more comfortable matters immensely. Every sip of water offered, every new position suggested, every word of encouragement, every reminder to breathe, every single touch, provides comfort to the laboring woman. And partners need to know this and believe in the power that their undivided attention and connection can bring to the laboring woman.

Here's why I think the findings from this latest study are so important—it's that feeling of shared empathy between the laboring woman and her partner that causes the physiological coupling and pain relieving effects that help a woman when she's experiencing pain.

That's why I've always told the partners in my classes that even if they hired an army of the world's greatest labor doulas, their unwavering, focused and empathetic attention during birth, is the reason why she'll tell everyone that she couldn't have made it through labor without her partner! Even if all they did was hold her hand.

It's a conundrum many parents wrestle with: We don't want to lie to our kids, but when it comes to Santa, sometimes we're not exactly giving them the full truth either.

For Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard, lying to daughters Lincoln, 5, and Delta, 3 just isn't an option, so everyone in the Bell-Shepard household knows the truth about Santa.

"This is going to be very controversial," Shepard told Us Weekly earlier this month. "I have a fundamental rule that I will never lie to them, which is challenging at times. Our 5-year-old started asking questions like, 'Well, this doesn't make sense, and that doesn't make sense.' I'm like, 'You know what? This is just a fun thing we pretend while it's Christmas.'"

According to Shepard, this has not diminished the magic of Christmas in their home. "They love watching movies about Santa, they love talking about Santa," Shepard told Us. "They don't think he exists, but they're super happy and everything's fine."

Research indicates that Shepard is right—kids can be totally happy and into Christmas even after figuring out the truth and that most kids do start to untangle the Santa myth on their own, as Lincoln did.

Studies suggest that for many kids, the myth fades around age seven, but for some kids, it's sooner, and that's okay.


Writing for The Conversation, Kristen Dunfield, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Concordia University, suggests that when kids come to parents with the hard questions about Santa, parents may feel a bit sad, but can take some comfort in "recognizing these challenging questions for what they are—cognitive development in action."

Kids aren't usually the ones who are upset when they figure it out, researchers note. Typically, kids are kind of proud of themselves for being such great detectives. It's the parents who feel sadness.

Some parents may not choose to be as blunt as Shepard, and that's okay, too. According to Dunfield, if you don't want to answer questions about Santa with 100% truth, you can answer a question with a question.

"If instead you want to let your child take the lead, you can simply direct the question back to them, allowing your child to come up with explanations for themselves: "I don't know, how do you think the sleigh flies?" Dunfield writes.

While Dax Shepard acknowledges that telling a 3-year-old that Santa is pretend might be controversial, he's hardly the first parent to present Santa this way. There are plenty of healthy, happy adults whose parents told them the truth.

LeAnne Shepard is one of them. Now a mother herself, LeAnne's parents clued her into the Santa myth early, for religious reasons that were common in her community.

"In the small Texas town where I grew up, I wasn't alone in my disbelief. Many parents, including mine, presented Santa Claus as a game that other families played," she previously wrote. "That approach allowed us to get a picture on Santa's lap, watch the Christmas classics, and enjoy all the holiday festivities so long as we remembered the actual reason for the season. It was much like when I visited Disney World and met Minnie Mouse; I was both over the moon excited and somewhat aware that she was not actually real."

No matter why you want to tell your children the truth about Santa, know that it's okay to let the kids know that he's pretend. Kristen Bell's kids prove that knowing the truth about Santa doesn't have to make Christmas any less exciting. Pretending can be magical, too.

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